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COLLECTION Identifier: LAW-MMC-256

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. addenda


The Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. Addenda consists of items regarding Holmes's life, family, and work, which were donated to the library by various parties after the primary collection of his papers was made available to the public. The collection includes correspondence, scrapbooks and diaries, clippings, reprints, and family papers dating to the mid-nineteenth century.


  • Creation: 1818-1978


Conditions Governing Access

Access to these papers is governed by the rules and regulations of the Harvard Law School Library. This collection is open to the public, but is housed off-site at Harvard Depository and requires 2 business-day advance notice for retrieval. Consult the Historical and Special Collections staff for further information.

Conditions Governing Use

The Harvard Law School Library holds copyright on some, but not all, of the material in our collections. Requests for permission to publish material from this collection should be directed to the Historical and Special Collections staff. Researchers who obtain permission to publish from the Harvard Law School Library are also responsible for identifying and contacting the persons or organizations who hold copyright.


3.3 linear feet (8 boxes)

The Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. Addenda spans the years 1818 to 1978 with the bulk of the materials falling between 1881 and 1940. The collection includes personal correspondence, biographical materials about Holmes and his family, including his wife's family the Dixwells, some judicial materials from both the U. S. Supreme Court and the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, and photocopies and reprints of items to and about Holmes.

Biographical / Historical

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. was born on March 8, 1841. After graduating from Harvard College in 1861 with an A.B. he joined the Union Army not mustering out until July 1864. After the war he received an LL.B. from Harvard in 1866. From 1873-1882 he was a member of the law firm of Shattuck, Holmes and Munroe. He left the firm in 1882 to join the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. He was appointed to the United States Supreme Court in 1902 by President Theodore Roosevelt with full Senate confirmation coming later in that same year. Holmes went on to serve on the Court for longer than any other Justice before retiring in 1932. He died on March 6, 1935.

Series List/Description

  1. Series I. Correspondence, 1866-1965
  2. Series II. Biographical Materials re: OWH, 1848-1978
  3. Series III. Biographical Materials re: Holmes and DixwellFamilies, 1818-1940
  4. Series IV. Judicial Papers, 1887-1920
  5. Series V. Photocopied items and miscellany, 1880-1967

    Within eachseries and/or subseries individual items or folders are identified bybox and folder number. For example, the number 5-12 corresponds tobox 5, folder 12.

Physical Location

Harvard Depository

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Please contact Curator of Modern Manuscripts.

Processing Information

In 2011 the collection known as the Oliver Wendell Holmes (1841-1935), Papers 1637-1967, was reprocessed by Margaret Peachy. Five new collections were created from this one collection:

  1. The John G. Palfrey (1875-1945)Collection of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. Papers, 1715-1938.
  2. The Mark DeWolfe Howe Research Materials On Oliver WendellHolmes, Jr., 1858-1968.
  3. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.,Addenda, 1818-1978.
  4. The Edward J. Holmes Collection ofOliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. Materials, 1853-1944.
  5. Letters from Holmes to Lady Castleton Small ManuscriptCollection.

The decision to reprocess the original Holmes papers was based primarily on two factors. First, the original Holmes donation (i.e. the material gathered by his executor John G. Palfrey) had been corrupted by the inclusion of additional material over many years from various sources, which combined to create a collection that misrepresented the original donation. Second, this practice of adding to the original collection resulted in a complex and difficult to use finding aid.

Processing Information

The entirety of the Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. addenda, 1818-1978 has been digitized. The collection comprises part of the now retired Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. Digital Suite , which brought together all of the digitized holdings of the Harvard Law School Library by or about Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. The suite is currently being migrated to the Harvard Library CURIOSity platform, and will be available some time in 2023.

In preparation for the migration, the finding aid was revised and updated up by HLSL Digital Lab staff in the summer and fall of 2022. This work included normalizing dates, minor changes in the intellectual arrangment of the collection, and in some instances, updating the titles of folders so they better reflect the contents within. Please see the "Processing Information" note for individual folders, when it is available, for more information.

Holmes, Oliver Wendell, Jr., Addenda, 1818-1978: Finding Aid
Harvard Law School Library, Cambridge, MA 02138
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Harvard Law School Library, Historical & Special Collections Repository

Harvard Law School Library's Historical & Special Collections (HSC) collects, preserves, and makes available research materials for the study of the law and legal history. HSC holds over 8,000 linear feet of manuscripts, over 100,000 rare books, and more than 70,000 visual images.

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